Early Career Musings: Shrinking Distances and Growing Connections
By Leann Terry, PhD
Recently two opportunities arose through my connections with other Society members. The first was to co-author a book in a new practicebased series on group work. I had a number of reactions. Initially, it was one of gratitude that this person thought of me. Then I had a bit of uncertainty, "Is this something I really can do?" which I recognized as a classic case of Imposter Syndrome rearing its ugly head. Thankfully, that's something I feel much less recently! Later, I felt some confidence returning, "Yeah, this is a task that is fitting for where I am at. It will take some work, but it's a good next step for me." And as I continued to reflect on this, I realized it was a part of a larger trend I had observed, namely, shrinking distances and growing connections between me and others in the group field. The second instance that was also a part of this trend was an invitation to write a book review of a newly published group focused book. Of course, the "not-toofar- from-graduate-school-fiscally-conscious" part of me loved the idea of getting to keep the book after I was done reading and reviewing it! After taking a look at my work load this summer, the book review requirements, and other factors, I decided it was also a task that I'd be able to take on.
Of more interest to me (and likely to you, dear reader) than the content of these new opportunities was the process that they reflected. One part of the process they represented was the quality of the relationships I have with these Society members. It also spoke to the perceptions and possibilities they saw in me. But it also spoke to our level of connection as professional colleagues. When I first joined the Society as a new graduate student, I felt intimidated. There was a large gulf between myself as a "student" and the "big name professionals" that I had only previously known by reading their articles or books. That chasm doesn't look so big anymore as I'm standing on the other side as an early career professional. Yes, I have some more knowledge, awareness, and experience, but that makes the gulf much less impressive than it felt as a graduate student. It feels as though my perceptions are getting more accurate as time goes by (and I receive more feedback from the group!).
A final example of the growing connections through my work with the Society is my collaboration with Lee Gillis, Member-at-Large of the Society. When I was a senior in college, I sent an email to him out of the blue. I was a student across the country with no connection to him and it felt like a big risk to email him. I recall his response being friendly, encouraging, and supportive. Interestingly, with the large storage for emails available, I was able to go back and find the actual email correspondence from 2002. Here were some of his recommendations in the form of a top 7 list: "Stick to your dream" and "Let me know how I can support you. :-)" Who would have known that our paths would cross again through the Society? Now, Lee and I are working closely on developing the Society's new webpage. We have a Google video chat several times a month and always enjoy the time catching up in person at the annual convention.
In my role as an early career psychologist, I value the feelings of inclusion I get through my participation in the Society. I must admit, I like being a part of the "in-group"! It reinforces my identity as a group psychologist, as a valued colleague, and as a friend. I look forward to growing these connections even further as time goes by. Don't underestimate the importance of nurturing connections with others around you. Those are what bring us into the Society and those are what keep us here!